‘Job isn’t done’ -- Badin set its sights on Celina in regional final

HAMILTON — Royce Rachel doesn’t mind a little discipline here and there from his coaches.

That just means the Badin High School junior defensive lineman is practicing for another Friday night under the lights.

“I want to get yelled at,” Rachel smirked. “I want to get yelled at all of this week and next week. I want to play a game every week. This feels great and all, but the job isn’t done just yet.”

The state’s second-ranked Rams are set to square off against the Celina Bulldogs in a Division III regional final on Friday at 7 p.m. at Trotwood-Madison.

Badin seventh-year coach Nick Yordy said his program has moved on from last week’s thrilling 14-10 triumph over Wapakoneta.

But it’s difficult not to mention how the Rams have gotten to this point.

“We told them on Monday that we were done talking about it,” Yordy said. “If we get too caught up in that and how it ended, then we’re not going to be focused against Celina. That’s how our mentality has to be.”

Badin (13-0) has outscored its three postseason opponents 79-16 — which includes last Friday’s win over the Redskins, when Alex Ritzie drove the Rams 65 yards in a minute and a half and hit Carson Cheek on a 5-yard TD pass with 2 seconds remaining.

“We get to practice again and be around these kids,” Yordy said. “Credit to them because they didn’t quit, and they didn’t fold up. It would have been easy to. There’s a point in that game where it wasn’t looking pretty good. The kids battled, finally caught a couple of breaks and pulled it out.”

The Rams are 48-3 in the last four seasons, have played in six consecutive regional semifinals and will now be playing in their third straight regional final. Badin fell to Tippecanoe in last year’s regional final on a late field goal and lost to Chardon 21-14 in the 2021 state final.

The Badin-Celina winner will face the Columbus Watterson-Bellefontaine winner in the Division III state semifinals on Friday, Nov. 24, at a neutral site to be announced Saturday.

“We work hard at practice every day,” Rachel said. “We put 100 percent into every single play — hustling to the ball, making great reads and playing our butts off.”

Yordy said that kind of mindset hasn’t changed since Week 1, which was the start of Badin’s 13-game winning streak.

“This is a grind,” Yordy said. “We try to keep everything routine-oriented. These guys will probably tell you that. There’s really not a whole lot of different messages — other than the fact that we’re still here, and we’ve got a chance to keep playing. We need to take advantage of that, which is the biggest thing.

“Our guys know — you lose, you go home,” Yordy added. “They’re aware of that. We don’t harp on it a whole lot. We’re just happy to be playing another week.”

Celina (11-2), which shared the Western Buckeye League title with Wapakoneta, knocked off Tippecanoe 27-13 last week.

The Bulldogs utilize the athleticism of senior Braylon Gabes, who was named both a WBL Offensive and Defensive Back of the Year.

“They do stuff a little bit different,” Yordy said of Celina. “They don’t do as much of the run-heavy, wing-T type of stuff that Wapakoneta does. But they do run the ball, and they do have some good athletes. They jump out at you.”

Gabes accumulated over 1,400 all-purpose yards and 21 total touchdowns during the 2023 regular season, while Celina quarterback Bobby Morris threw for 750 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions.

In the first 10 games, Bulldogs running back Jon Lutz added 585 yards and four scores on the ground.

“We’ve got to stop the run,” Rachel said. “Find ‘em and hit ‘em. They have a lot of guys going both ways. But this will be a big test for our run defense.”

Rachel added that from here on out, it doesn’t get any easier and it’s going to take every phase of the game for the Rams to stay competitive.

“We can’t put everything on the defense,” Rachel said. “We can’t put everything on the offense and special teams, either. We’ve got to play great in all three.

“We know we can vibe together. That’s what brings us up as a team. We work with each other well. Nothing is going to change that heading into Friday. We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve always been doing.”

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